Young and Wild and Free
William left our Thanksgiving dinner at a respectable hour and went back to his hotel alone, much to my sadness.
It fills me with such anxiety to lose even a minute of my time with him. I know if we make it home, he won’t be alive anymore, and I need to spend as much time with him as I can.
I can’t bear to think of him as being dead even though I’ve lived nearly all my life with him in that state.
Paige comes in, in a wonderful mood. I’ve never seen her look that way in all our lives, and I suspect it’s partly because of Theo.
William and I did the dishes after dinner, but there’s still cleaning left. Paige and I silently help the girls sweep, vacuum, and wipe down things.
Betty looks over often, but only makes small talk with us. No big questions we dread having to answer.
I wait until Paige and I are back in our room alone before I say anything about her happy mood.
“So, how did it go with Theo?” I ask casually though I’m dying to get the details. Paige smiles widely and I can see she’s blushing.
“It was amazing. Theo is so wonderful. I really like him which is so, so stupid, but I can’t help it. He’s sweet, and he doesn’t make fun of me for my awkwardness. Maybe my craziness about my cello is not as weird here as is it at home.”
Paige speaks with such animation that I can’t help but smile at her. It makes my heart happy to see her so alive.
Paige is normally so reserved about her feelings and, never once in my life, have I seen her gush about anything let alone about a guy.
“He kissed me, Liv. It was my first kiss. I know how lame that sounds being that I’m eighteen, but I’m so very glad I waited for someone like him,” Paige says.
“That’s not lame at all. It’s wonderful to wait then you can always look back fondly and know it wasn’t some rando after a football game in the eighth grade,” I reply thinking back to my first kiss with a boy that I can’t recall the name of.
Paige throws me a smile and climbs into bed. I lay in my bed staring at the ceiling long after Paige’s breathing deepens. I know she’s fast asleep, probably having wonderful dreams about Theo. Though she’s never said it, I can feel how at home Paige is here.
It’s different from being on the Titanic. We are once again waiting for tragedy, but it isn’t so immediate as it was before. It’s weeks off and that leaves room for Paige to feel complacent with our situation.
Annoyance and anger bubbles in my stomach and I’m surprised by the feelings. I guess when I think about it; I want Paige to want to go home as much as I do and lately it doesn’t feel like she does. I feel… left behind.
I shake my head to dispel the thoughts. I know Paige wants to go home as much as I do and she’s just making the most of this situation. We are in this together and we will go home together. It’s not as if the force that brought us here leaves us much choice in the comings and goings, anyway.
I turn to my side and close my eyes determined to fall asleep thinking good thoughts.
I’m able to see Theo again today. He calls in the morning to let me know he has the weekend off for the holiday and that he’s coming over to get me. I go outside to water the flowers while I wait for him.
I hear my name called and look up to see Theo walking down the path with flowers in his hands. I smile widely and make my way over to him. We stop in front of each other.
“Good morning,” he says, handing me the flowers. I take them with a smile.
“You just gave me flowers yesterday,” I comment casually. Theo smiles and says,
“Yeah, well, you deserve to get flowers every day.”
I fling my arms around him and he hugs me tightly, picking me up and spinning me around. I laugh, feeling like I’ve never felt before.
I don’t know how to describe it other than feeling careless, like the only thing we have to worry about is what we’ll do next.
Theo lets me down and kisses me.
“Let me put these in water,” I say as I go into the house. I grab a vase off the kitchen counter and put the flowers in. I put them at the center of the dining room table.
“More flowers?” Betty asks with a smile as she walks by. I flash a smile as I walk back outside.
“Let’s go,” Theo says taking my hand, and starts running from the house. I run with him until he finally stops.
“I want to take you somewhere,” he says through heavy breaths.
“Okay,” I reply, surprising myself. Not knowing where I’m going or what I’m doing is not something I usually like.
“It’s a bit of a hike. Will you be okay?” Theo asks.
I’ve never been an outdoorsy person, but I’m willing to follow him anywhere.
“I’ll be fine. I’ve hiked before,” I reply.
Theo smiles and grabs my hand again. This time we walk together as if we’re taking a stroll down the street. Theo hails a cab, and the guy drives us as far as he can.
We hike for a while on an established path. Theo helps me when I need it, which to be honest, is pretty often. The low heels don’t help the situation.
Every time Theo has to stop to help me up some minor incline, the heat of embarrassment flushes my cheeks. I’m not sure if Theo ever notices, though. He always smiles and seems more than willing to help me.
“Where are we going?” I ask, breathless.
“Makapu’u Lighthouse,” Theo replies.
I’ve heard of the lighthouse before and I’m excited to see it in person. Theo and I get there before noon. We stand together on a ledge staring down at the ocean. It’s calm today with hardly any waves.
“Sometimes you can see migrating Humpback whales during this time of the year,” Theo says, looking out, searching.
I study the water too, looking for any sign of whales. When I see some break the water’s surface, I squeal with delight. Several whales jump out of the water and crash back into it with large splashes. I’ve never seen anything like this before and it’s breathtaking.
Theo laughs at my excitement and grabs my hand to hold it as we watch the whales jumping and calling to each other. The whale calls are beautiful and the whole sight is just magnificent. I lay my head on Theo’s shoulder, watching, and I don’t know how long we stay there.
The sun is high in the sky, so I imagine it must be getting late into the afternoon. I’m getting hungry so Theo and I hike down and back to town. We stop at a little cafe across from the beach to have lunch.
“What’s your favorite thing about the island?” Theo asks me. I let out a breath to think.
“The ocean. I love how it makes the whole island smell like saltwater and it’s beautiful, even when it’s dangerous,” I reply.
“I enjoy the wonderful weather all year long and the surfing is good.”
“I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf,” I say, looking towards the ocean.
I’ve been here before, but I missed the chance to learn to surf. Mom, Dad, and Olivia had taken a few lessons and even though I wanted to, I was in that awkward puberty stage and I was too afraid I’d make an ass out of myself with everyone watching. So, I skipped the lessons to go look at tide pools by myself. I regret that choice, but we haven’t been anywhere by the ocean since I was fourteen and you can’t surf in Nevada.
“I could teach you,” Theo offers.
“I’d love that, thank you,” I say with a smile as I finish my coffee.
Theo and I walk home after lunch. When we get back to the house, we stop by the front porch.
“Can I see you again?” he asks.
“Of course. You’ve got to teach me to surf, remember?” I reply, smiling. Theo’s returning smile is so large, I can see all his teeth.
“Right. I’ll see you soon,” Theo replies and kisses me.
This kiss is just as incredible as the first one. Theo pulls away and turns to go. When he gets to the edge of the lawn, he turns back and waves at me. I wave back, laughing.
I walk into the house and I’m not surprised when I can’t find Olivia.
“Where’s Liv?” I ask Ethel. She responds without looking up.
“She’s out with William, I think. How was your date?” she asks. I smile at the memory.
“Wonderful. We went to Makapu’u Lighthouse,” I reply as I get myself some water. Ethel nods approvingly.
“He seems nice,” Ethel says. I smile again, agreeing with her assessment. Theo is an amazing man.
Paige goes out with Theo today too, leaving me with a lot of time alone to spend with William. It would have been nice for Paige to tell me where she’s going before she took off, but I’m not her mother.
I’m hoping I’ll find Paige at the beach so that’s where William and I go. She’s not there, but William and I stay for most of the day.
I’m going to get seriously tan living here. I’m already tan from home, but Vegas doesn’t have a beach to spend your days lounging on.
William brought a picnic basket and blanket. No one has ever taken me on a picnic before. I smile as he spreads the blanket out.
“This is nice,” I say, taking a seat across from him. William pours some wine into a glass and passes me some cheese squares. I take both and wait for him to pour his glass.
“What should we toast?” I ask.
“Hmm, how about we toast the fact that we’re together again,” he replies.
“That’s a good thing to toast,” I say and clink my glass with his before taking a drink.
“I’m glad I’m here,” William says, picking up a cheese square and popping it in his mouth.
“I am too,” I say, smiling at him.
I want to kiss him then, but I don’t know how he’ll feel about it. Turns out, I don’t have to worry much, because William kisses me. I don’t care what it might look like to the other people on the beach. He is, and will always be, my William. His age doesn’t matter to me. He’s my soulmate regardless of how much time passes.
I kiss him back and when he pulls away from me, I’m breathless.
“Do you want to go swimming?” William asks me.
“I don’t have a bathing suit,” I reply.
“Let’s go buy one,” he says. I’m hesitant about him buying me stuff, but I agree.
We pick up our picnic and walk back to the car William rented. We drive to a store where swimming attire is sold.
One side of the store is female bathing suits, the other side, male. William goes over to the men’s side as I peruse. Swimming suits are so different here. I don’t know which one to pick. William has his swim shorts in his hand. He must have seen my unsure look as I gaze at the many suits.
“What about this one?” William asks holding a bright yellow one that looks like a strapless mini dress. I crinkle my nose and shake my head.
“What did yours look like back home?” William asks, scanning the other ones.
“It was pink, blue, and purple. It covers a lot less than these,” I reply, motioning to the suit in my hand.
William eyes me, probably wondering what kind of barbarous place I live in. I finally find one with a white halter top and navy blue bottoms. They are super high-waisted and have brass buttons on two sides down the middle.
“I like this one,” I reply, taking it down. It will show a lot of leg and a little belly. I can imagine William’s horror thirty years ago at such immodesty.
William has me get a bathing suit for Paige and pays for them all. Right before we’re about to check out, I see a volleyball. It’s looking at me invitingly. I smile at it and put it with the swimsuits.
We go back to the beach after making our purchases. I find a bathroom to change in and meet William back where we had our picnic.
I feel a little weird wearing such high-waisted bottoms, but otherwise, the suit is comfortable. William is shirtless with little trunks. His body is super white and not at all tanned, but he has defined muscles and abs for someone his age. William’s body is just as amazing as I always pictured and I bet it was even better when he was in his early twenties.
William lets his eyes linger on my body longer than he usually does. I cock an eyebrow at him.
“Like what you see?” I ask.
“You’re beautiful, you know,” he replies and comes to put his arms around me. I return the hug.
“Let’s go swimming,” I whisper into his ear.
William lets go, grabs my hand, and we run towards the water. The last time we were in the water together, we were trying desperately to stay out of it so we could live. Thirty years later, we’re running towards it happily.
We splash into the tide as it crashes toward the beach. William dives into the waves. It’s a minute before he comes up again, but when he does, he splashes me in the face.
I sit there with my mouth open in shock. I scoff and splash him back. He comes at me and tackles me into the water. I come back up sitting in the shallow water. I look up and see Paige smiling down at me.
“How’s it hanging, Sis?” she asks.
“Want to join?” I ask, flicking water at her.
“I don’t have a swimsuit,” she replies.
“William and I bought you one. I’ll go with you to change,” I say getting up. I take her hand and lead her to the car.
“Cute suit, by the way,” Paige says looking at me.
I get her suit out and show her to the place I changed. She comes out looking cute and a little self-conscience in her pink polka dot swimsuit. She has skirt bottoms and a halter top like mine.
“You look great,” I reply. As we’re walking back to where William is, someone runs up behind us and grabs Paige. She yelps like a puppy. It’s Theo holding her by the waist.
“Fancy meeting you here,” he says. Paige giggles, she’s actually giggling. This is one for the books.
“What are you doing here? I thought you had to go?” Paige asks when Theo sets her down.
“The plans I had got canceled, so I came to find you,” Theo replies.
“Oh good. I’m glad you’re here,” Paige says, taking Theo’s hand as we walk back to William.
“Hello, Sister,” Theo says throwing his arm around my shoulders like we’ve known each other for years.
“Hey,” I reply, smiling at their adorableness. I don’t attempt to move his arm since the gesture is harmless.
We meet back up with William. He’s sunbathing on the beach with sunglasses on. He sits up when he notices Theo with us giving the arm around my shoulders a pointed look. I smile at him and shake my head. Theo holds his hand out to shake William’s.
“Hi, Mr. McCarthy,” Theo says.
“Please, call me William.”
I pick up my volleyball and chuck it at Paige. She lifts her hands when she sees it coming and catches it right before it hits her face. Paige gives me a confused look.
“Let’s play volleyball,” I say, pointing to the net and makeshift court in the distance.
“Sounds like a good time,” Theo replies, grabbing the ball from Paige’s hand. He takes off toward the court. William and I follow right away. I can almost hear Paige huff before following us.
It’s William and me against Theo and Paige. Not to sound cocky, but they will lose. Paige is not a sports person and I have years of playing under my belt.
I serve first and, almost single-handedly, Theo keeps the ball going. Paige helps with a nice set now and again. She must have learned something from watching me play.
We play the best two out of three. In the end, William and I dominate, but Theo and Paige are at least graceful losers.
The four of us play into the evening until the sky changes to a watercolor painting of purple, orange, and pink.
The sky is darkening as I sit with Theo on the beach, drying. Olivia is cuddled up with William looking at the beautiful sky.
“They’re an odd couple. How did that happen?” Theo asks. I sigh. I don’t even know how to describe their relationship without explaining the truth, which I very much want to do.
“It’s complicated,” I reply.
“How does your dad really feel about it?” he asks.
“What do you mean?”
“At Thanksgiving dinner, William said your dad worked for him at one point. I know William said your folks were okay with the relationship, but if I had a daughter, I don’t know if I’d want her dating someone close to my age,” he replies.
“Oh, yeah. That isn’t strictly true. My parents have never met William. I think they would like him, and you, if they ever got to meet you guys. It’s difficult to explain the truth. That’s why we lied,” I explain.
“I think I’d like to meet your parents someday,” Theo responds, slowly taking in my explanation. He must have read my expression because he doesn’t ask any more questions on the topic. I shift so I can lean back against him and Theo puts his arms around me.
“I wish it were possible,” I whisper imagining the four of us going to Mom and Dad’s house for Christmas or something.
I picture William and Theo in 2019 with us as if we met in college and how wonderful it would be for it all to be so normal. I sigh knowing that will never happen, but a girl can dream.
We watch the sunset together and I’m feeling content listening to Theo breathing softly behind me. I look over to see Olivia with William and wonder how long this feeling of carelessness is going to last. I know the answer in the back of my mind is seven more days, but I don’t want to think about it just now.